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what they anxiously desire, I again answer that, in my opinion, the very contrary of this is nearer to the truth. Anxiety of desire, earnestness of expectation, the vastness of an event, rather causes men to disbelieve, to doubt, to dread a fallacy, to distrust, and to examine.
When our Lord's resurrection was first reported to the apostles, they did not believe, we are told, for joy. This was natural, and is agreeable to experience.
VII. We have laid out of the case those accounts which require no more than a simple assent; and we now also lay out of the case those which come merely in affirmance of opinions already formed. This last circumstance is of the utmost importance to notice well. It has long been observed, that Popish miracles happen in Popish countries; that they make no converts : which proves that stories are accepted, when they fall in with principles already fixed, with the public sentiments, or with the sentiments of a party already engaged on the side the miracle supports, which would not be attempted to be produced
in the face of enemies, in opposition to reigning tenets or favourite prejudices, or when, if they be believed, the belief must draw men away from their preconceived and habitual opinions, from their modes of life and rules of action. In the former case, men may not only receive a miraculous account, but may both act and suffer on the side, and in the cause,
which the miracle supports, yet not act or suffer for the miracle, but in pursuance of a prior persuasion. The miracle, like any other argument which only confirms what was before believed, is admitted with little examination. In the moral, as in the natural word, it is change which requires a
Men are easily fortified in their old opinions, driven from them with great difficulty. Now how does this apply to the Christian history? The miracles, there recorded, were wrought in the midst of enemies, under a government, a priesthood, and a magistracy, decidedly and vehemently adverse to them, and to the pretensions which they supported. They were Protestant miracles in a Popish country ; they were Popish miracles in the midst of Protestants. They produced a change: they established a society upon the spot, adhering to the belief of them; they made converts ; and those who were converted, gave up to the testimony their most fixed opinions and most favourite prejudices. They who acted and suffered in the cause, acted and suffered for the miracles; for there was no anterior persuasion to induce them, no prior reverence, prejudice, or partiality, to take hold of. Jesus had not one follower when he set up his claim. His miracles gave birth to his sect. No part of this description belongs to the ordinary evidence of Heathen or Popish miracles. Even most of the miracles alleged to have been performed by Christians, in the second and third century of its æra, want this confirmation. It constitutes indeed a line of partition between the origin and the progress of Christianity. Frauds and fallacies might mix themselves with the progress, which could not possibly take place in the commencement of the religion; at least, according to any laws of human conduct that we are acquainted with. What should suggest to the first propagators of Christianity, especially to fishermen, tax-gatherers, and husbandmen, such a thought as that of changing the religion of the world; what could bear them through the difficulties in which the attempt engaged them ; what could procure any degree of success to the attempt? are questions which apply, with great force, to the setting out of the institution, with less, to every future stage of it.
To hear some men talk, one would suppose the setting up of a religion by miracles to be a thing of every day's experience: whereas the whole current of history is against it. Hath any founder of a new sect amongst Christians pretended to miraculous powers, and succeeded by his pretensions? “ Were these powers claimed or exercised by the founders of the sects of the Waldenses and Albigenses ? Did Wickliffe in England pretend to it? Did Huss or Jerome in Bohemia ? Did Luther in Germany, Zuinglius in Switzerland, Calvin in France, or any of the reformers advance this plea *?" The French prophets, in the beginning of the present century *, ventured to allege miraculous evidence, and immediately ruined their cause by their temerity. “ Concerning the religion of ancient Rome, of Turkey, of Siam, of China, a single miracle cannot be named, that was ever offered as a test of any of those religions before their establishmentt.
* Campbell on Miracles, p. 120; ed. 1766.
We may add to what has been observed, of the distinction which we are considering, that, where miracles are alleged merely in affirmance of a prior opinion, they who believe the doctrine may sometimes propagate a belief of the miracles which they do not themselves entertain. This is the case of what are called pious frauds; but it is a case, I apprehend, which takes place solely in support of a persuasion already established. At least it does not hold of the apostolical history. If the apostles did not believe the miracles, they did not believe the religion; and, without this belief, where was the piety, what place
* The eighteenth.
Adams on Mir. p. 75.